hey came from beyond high orbits, disk-like vessels that slid into the atmosphere, nudging past Chinese spy balloons, descending over an unsuspecting America. On their steel underbellies, access ports irised open and the cold muzzles of alien devices slid forth, tracking along the faint railline running across the eastern mountains. These were no deathrays, no, nor atomizers or any one of traditional alien destructo-beams. These were capture rays, used to pluck fishermen out of rowboats and yahoos out of cornfields.
The aliens had come with capture on their vast, cool, unsympathetic minds.
Their plans were carefully considered. The first beam struck the railroad’s president, draped over a bar in a pool of spilled beer, beaming him away and leaving the railroad leaderless.
Then, a train leaving Bound Brook suffered a similar attack, it’s crew flickering out, the train left to continue without a hand on the throttle, out of the yard and rolling through the countryside, finally boarded and stopped at Calypso.
A flash strobed in the office of the dispatcher. With no one directing the railroad, it was reported that another train with clear and permissive warrants, nearly ran in front of two passenger trains who were now running without restricting orders. Only quick action of the crews avoided a double-cornfield and a tragic loss of life.
Meanwhile, a plucky, handsome engineer worked the Shelfton maze, efficiently moving cars in and out of the sidings. Just as he finished up, a beam (slightly off-center) beamed away the left half of his brain, the part where logic and paperwork is performed. Now, with only the mental capacity of, say, a blogger, the engineer took his train back to Martin Yard, his waybills a total mess.
And then there was the crew of train 95. Engineer Wells (Greg, not H.G.) was beamed out of his home and never reported for duty. Yet such was his hold over train 95’s management that none dared to run it that night. Likewise, the engineer of Silver Bullet 2 was removed from his cab while the train idled in Pittsburgh Station. He was never seen again, his train abandoned halfway through its run.
Occasionally the beam affected inanimate objects as well. Several packets of waybills vanished into the night. A caboose flew leapt off the rails, over the side of a cliff.
Oddly, the aliens scanned the immature coding in the dispatcher’s computer and fixed it. There were no crashes of the software that night.
With their mission complete, the alien slaver-ships drifted away into the night sky, leaving a railroad empty in their wake. And all that remained was the Martin yardmaster, still switching his cuts, unaware that he was… alone.